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Towson University

The Glass Key
By Lindsey Colross
For BaltimoreStories.com

There are two things people must know before taking a stained glass class with Donna Darcy: politics stop at the door and the goal is to have fun.

At The Glass Key, Inc. people of all ages and backgrounds come together in the name of learning a new craft in an environment that feels like home.

Darcy owns the stained-glass shop, located off U.S. 1 in Jessup, which she opened in 1999.

“I was going to do a kit for a friend and I found out that I needed all this other stuff and I didn't know where to get it. There was a local stained-glass shop, so I wound up going there and taking a class.”

“I worked for a company called Meredith's Stained-Glass and they were in Silver Spring ,” said Darcy. “The commute on the Beltway for two years just got to be too much, so I decided I was going to open up a place closer to home.”

The Glass Key specializes in teaching the art of stained-glass and doing custom stained-glass projects. However, it is teaching that Darcy likes best and it is what the shop's focus has become.

“I love teaching, I hate all the paperwork–the papers I've got to file with the government, the taxes and all that stuff,” said Darcy. “It's a lot of work to own your own business and you find that out the hard way.”

But it is the customers, old and young, that keep Darcy and the shop going. Those who take classes at The Glass Key include kids, husband and wife teams, and senior citizens.

“We've taught children who were as young as 11 years old, but it all depends on their own maturity. There are some young kids that are very artistic and then there are some 16-year-olds that have no desire, so it really depends on the individual person,” said Darcy.

Darcy said that most of adults who take her class have always been interested in stained-glass, but heard that it was too hard to do.

“It's not hard, it's just time consuming,” said Darcy. “It's a labor of love to do it.”

Usually, Darcy will put children in the same class with adults, but there have been times when she had to separate the two because the adults became intimidated.

“A lot of times I have to be careful which kids I put into a class with adults. Some kids will actually show up the adults and some adults are offended by it,” said Darcy. “When it comes to breaking the glass, kids have no fear and adults are afraid to hurt themselves.”

Darcy has a lot of pride knowing that the people in her classes might become regulars to her shop, making it feel less like work and more like home. For someone who spends as much time at work as Darcy, it is important to feel that warmth, as if her shop is a home away from home.

“It has to have that atmosphere,” said Darcy. “When my kids come here, I have to have a place for them.”

“I have a core of customers that are here all the time and it's nothing to have them come behind the counter and start ringing customers out for me. It's more of a family that we have here, and anybody who comes in understands that,” said Darcy. “I think that's what makes them keep coming back.”

In order to keep with the family theme, Darcy does not let her classes get larger than eight students to make sure that every person gets individual treatment.

“It's an expensive hobby to get into, so it's a big investment and we're going to make sure that it works for you.

“The whole goal is for them to succeed and that's how it's supposed to be,” said Darcy. “We bend over backwards for our customers and students just to make sure that they will succeed.”

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